Why Man City records low attendance at the Etihad Stadium for their Champions League games

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After Manchester City’s first Champions League game of this season, Pep Guardiola expressed his disappointment over the low attendance of City fans at the Etihad Stadium that evening.

“I would say the last three games we played here; we scored 16 goals”. Guardiola told BT sport, “So I would like more people to come to the next game on Saturday, we need the people next Saturday”. About 38,000 fans were in attendance that day and as a result rival fans started referring to the Etihad stadium as “Empty-had”. The Etihad stadium has a capacity of over 55,000.

Interestingly, Manchester City’s Premier League attendance is very impressive. Their Premier League match after their UCL game with Leipzig had over 52,000 fans attending. City averaged 54,391 attendance during the 2019/20 Premier League season. This is great, considering that they have a total stadium capacity of around 55,017. It was also reported that before City’s UCL first leg game with Leipzig, their fans had a confusion over the ticket system.

In the long run, City has faced the issue of having just a few fans present at the Etihad for their UEFA games. During the 2018/19 Champions League season, City averaged 49,535 fans attendance to the Etihad. The 2017/18, 2016/17, and 2015/16 seasons saw an average of 48,050, 47,065 and 47,780, respectively. Clearly, City experienced an increase in attendance from last two seasons until this season.

Kevin Parker, the general secretary for Manchester City’s official supporters’ club, responded to Pep Guardiola’s remarks, “He doesn’t understand the difficulties that some people might have getting to a game at the Etihad on a Wednesday evening at 8 pm. They’ve got kids to think of; they might not be able to afford it, there are still some Covid issues. I don’t see why he comments on it. He is absolutely the best coach in the world but in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that.”

Kevin Parker made a fair point; there is a tram that runs from the Etihad complex back to the centre of Manchester, but things become complicated on match nights. It can get crowded, and people find it difficult to leave the stadium, and this is an issue for children and even those who must get up early for work.

Another reason for the low turnout at the Etihad for Champions League games could be the economic hardship of the coronavirus. Most people still have a fear of mingling in very crowded areas. As of September 2021, Manchester has reported the lowest vaccination rates in the UK, with only 56.4% of those eligible having received both doses.

Manchester City’s fan base and the club’s history can also be a factor: back in 2010, City had just six official overseas supporters, and as of 2018, the number grew to 116; the number continues to rise. Compared to Manchester United, City are way behind as the Red Devils can boast of 262 officially recognized supporters club in 89 different countries. A survey conducted in May 2021, entitled The True Colours of Football, measured Premier League Clubs popularity in the UK. Surprisingly, City was ranked seventh behind Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and even Leeds united.

Also, a YouGov poll conducted in 2014 revealed that 49% of Manchester City fans lived in the Northwest region of England, even higher than Manchester United’s 28%. It is understood that the numbers have changed over the years but not so much. Things may probably change for Manchester City for them to see an increase in fans attendance during their Champions League games.

By Immanuel Amuah